Home Automation Gift Guide

Home Automation Starter Guide

Everyone is talking about home automation.  You know, stuff like turning your lights on and off from your phone and stuff like that.  I’ve put together a starter home automation gift guide with 4 items that will work seamlessly together and get you started quickly and easily!

What I like most about home automation stuff, it that when done properly it works effortlessly, behind the scenes.  You don’t need to see fancy control panels, or wires everywhere, or anything.  All these products work with Amazon Alexa, as well as Apple Home Kit, so you have full control by voice, phone, and even Apple Watch!

Thermostat – Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat.  First of all let me say that I love the look of Nest products, especially their thermostat.  But for everything to work well together, the need to speak the same language, and Nest speaks a different computer language than most products).  So I’ve selected the Ecobee 3 Thermostat.  It has a great modern design, and has tons of features that will save you energy as well as keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Lock – the August Smart Lock is different than most smart locks – not only do you get control from your phone, but because of the way it is installed (from the inside), people coming to your door won’t know you have a digital look because they can’t see it.  You can provided timed access such as making sure your door locks every night at 8:00 before bed, or provide a PIN number to your parents that are coming to visit so they can come and go as they need.

Lights – If you are like me, you are at IKEA almost as much as you go to Home Depot or Lowes.  That’s why I’m selecting the Ikea’s TRÅDFRI lights.  For less than $80 you get 2 LED light bulbs, a controller, and a remote switch.  They can be controlled from Alexa, as well as Apple Home Kit.   Another feature I really like is  that you can dim them so  they aren’t so bright.  Finally you have the ability to select from 3 color temperatures: 2200 Kelvin (warm glow), 2700 Kelvin (warm white) and 4000 Kelvin (cool white), depending on your style and taste.

Alexa – In order to be able to control these items by voice – you need something that responds to voice commands – I’ve selected the Amazon Echo Dot.  For $30 you get full Alexa Control.  Just say “Alexa – lock the front door” and watch the deadbolt turn.

Custom Mouse Ears Shadow Display Boxes

Custom Mouse Ears display boxes

The first time I went to Disneyland I was 7 years old.  I had to wait another 35 years to return.  I didn’t know what I was missing.  There is a magical culture to Disney that I discovered.  It permeates everything!  Our house has been filling with Disney stuff ever since.  My wife loves Disney, my kid loves Disney,  but I won’t admit that I love Disney, but I do like a lot of their stuff.

OK, now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about a different room in our house.  The Ball Room.  The Ball Room is the 3rd bedroom in our 2000 square foot ranch, and is devoted to, and mostly decorated by my wife.  Because of this fact, and the fact that she loves Disney, she has a small collection of custom Mouse ears.

These aren’t your typical Disney Mouse ears.  These are custom, one-of-a-kind works of art.  The detail on these is simply incredible, I’m surprised they don’t work for Disney!  Some of her favorite artists on  are:

Please visit each of these creators on their Instagram page.  Some even have Etsy shops.  Their work is simply amazing.

My wife has been collecting these for a while now, and until recently hasn’t had a way to display them.  That was until her dad, my father in law, said that he could come up with a way.  And that it wouldn’t be hard at all.  He talked about an idea for a shadow box type of thing, using materials you can get from Home Depot for only a few dollars.

We told him that we wanted something that would show off the artistry of the ears, something that would enhance their artistic value, and group the collection in a way that was unique and classy.  It is after all a collection, and they are one of a kind.  We wanted something nice.

He said, no problem.  And a few days later we didn’t just have one display box for the magic mouse ears, we had FIVE!  Plus they looked so good.

He made 2 different sizes, 3 smaller ones and two big ones.  The smaller sizes hold 2 custom made mouse ears, and the larger shadow boxes hold 4.  They are made with 1/2 inch pine boards of different lengths.  The backs of the boxes are made from 1/2 plywood for stability and rigidity.  Everything was sanded and painted.  The outsides of the boxes are black, and the insides were white.

Here are the instructions on how to make some Custom Mouse Ears Shadow Display Boxes.

Smaller boxes:

Width 13 inches

Thickness 3 inches

Length 24 Inches

Larger boxes:

Width 13 inches

Thickness 3 inches

Length 36 Inches

 

All the wood was 1/2 inch  thick pine cut to the lengths above.  The backs were made from 1/2 plywood and cut to fit inside each box after they were made.

First he cut 2 sides (24 inches for the shorter boxes, and 36 inches for the longer ones) on his chop saw.  Then he cut a top and bottom 13 inches long the same way.  Then he simply butted the joints together with some glue and a few brad nails from his nail gun.  I don’t have any photos of him making them, but if he makes any more I will bring my camera along to show the process.

Once the box was made, he measured the Outside dimensions and cut the plywood back to fit.  He used some more wood glue and brad nails to affix the back to the sides and this made the box super rigid.

Finally he sanded each with some 120 grit sandpaper, and painted the outside black, and the insides an off white muslin.  I think they came out perfect, and it was so easy to do!

To hang them on the wall he used some picture framing hooks, and toggle bolts through the drywall to make them rock solid.

To attach the ears to the box, we use simple clear push pins.  Putting the boxes on the ground, my wife played with the arrangement of the ears until she found the perfect order to display them.  She carefully lined them up and then using the push pins she carefully pushed them into the back of the box, and set the mouse ears on them.  There are no holes in the ears, and if we want to change anything it is very easy to mix and match any way we want.

We think they came out great, and Each box was only a few dollars in materials.

 

 

How to clean a dishwasher

Every so often, like twice a year or so, I like to clean my dishwasher.  Not only does this help make the machine last longer, but it also helps to clean the dishes better.  This is my simple, non-toxic method for how to clean a dishwasher with products you probably already have at home right now.

How to clean your dishwasher with two items you have at home right now.

  1. Empty all dishes, silverware, and pots and pans from the dishwasher/

  2. Remove the filter at the bottom and rinse out any material inside.

  3. Fill a container with 2 cups white distilled vinegar and put into dishwasher on top shelf.

  4. Run a regular cycle – no soap – only the bowl full of vinegar.

  5. Optional – after the vinggar cycle ends – sprinkle about 1 cup of baking soda in bottom of dishwasher and run again.

  6. Clean the outside with a damp cloth to remove any stains or finger marks while the machine is running.


Time needed: 5 Minutes

Materials:

Category: Kitchen

Frequency: Quarterly or whenever inside looks dirty

Follow the 6 steps above to make the inside of your dishwasher sparkle like new.   Using the gentle cleaners like vinegar and baking soda, won’t hurt your seals or deteriorate the inner machinery of the Dishwasher.   Plus they are more natural and better for the environment.

Cleaning the Outside of your dishwasher is also easy.  There are two different ways to clean it, depending on it’s surface.  Generally I just wipe it down with a damp cloth.  If there is a tough stain, like some dried on food or dirt, I spray some Mrs. Myers cleaner on the surface, and let it sit for 30 seconds, then wipe it with the damp washcloth.

However, lots of newer appliances are made out of Stainless Steel.  In that case I use some Weiman stainless steel cleaner and wipe with a clean, dry towel to get a like new shine.

Be sure to sign up for my weekly emails where I send you tips like these to keep your house in tip top shape!

 

Today is my favorite day of the One Room Challenge

Bathroom and Bedroom Makeover

OK.  I’m impressed.  Let me tell you why.

There is this blogger, lets call her Linda (because that’s her real name), and she has this blog named Calling it Home.   And she has this contest called the One Room Challenge.  Its where 20 or so design and DIY bloggers have 6 weeks to transform a room.

Sounds easy, right?

I learned about this little challenge during week 2.  Every 7 days the house bloggers need to provide an update as to how the project is progressing.  So, in addition to demolition, painting, DIY-ing, and decorating, they have to blog about it.  And most of them also put it up on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

That’s pretty much 2 jobs.  And most of these folks have a regular day job too.

Scroll down to see the final reveal photo from each of the bloggers.  I’ve linked to their websites so you can also see the before and during pics, too.  Most of them even link to all their sources so if you love the look, you can learn where they got it.

French Country Dining Room

  1. Boxwood Avenue – They made a French Country Inspired Dining Room – I hope they invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner because I’d love to eat a meal at that table!Coco and Jack Living Room
  2. Coco & Jack – Every. Single. Angle. of this living room is Instagram worthy!  I want this space!Preppy Bohemian with a British Colonial influence
  3. Design Manifest – made a Preppy Bohemian with a British Colonial influence.  What they did with wallpaper is simply incredible.  IBB Design
  4. IBB for DWD – They accomplished what I can never do – combine diffferent colors and styles and patterns into a cohesive room.  The House Lars Built Office
  5. The House That Lars Built – Made an office that according to my wife – nobody could ever work in because it’s too nice to mess up.  Little Green Notebook bedroom
  6. Little Green Notebook – created a bedroom with a 3 layer floor – I’m seeing more and more of that design trend lately.  Girls Room Parisian French Modern
  7. The Makerista – made a beautiful french inspired girls room that evey my 5 year old boy wants to sleep in he said.  Home office in Attic
  8. Making it Lovely – took an irregular space and chose the perfect furniture to maximize the usefulness of the area.  Kudos to them!  Fall Inspired Patio
  9. Old Brand New Took a boring outside area and converted it into a colorful fall inspired patio area.  I’d spend more time out here than in my living room if this were at my house.Old new blue kitchen
  10. Old Home Love – Tackled one of the hardest rooms to make-over, the kitchen.  Look at the amazing work they did!Basement makeover
  11. The Painted House – Created a multi room masterpiece on the lower level of their house – adding a kitchenette, music area and s0 much more!Living room with a wall of windows
  12. Megan Pflug Designs – Took an old, and tired living room and made it into a contemporary, awesome space.Updated Kitchen One room Challenge
  13. Pink Pagoda – is another one of those blogs that redid an entire Kitchen in 7 weeks.  This is one where you have to click through and see the before to compare with the afters.  Do it!  Tiny House Makeover
  14. Erica Reitman – Lives in a tiny home, and did a makeover that will literally blow your mind.  The small space seems so much bigger now!  One Room Challenge Kids Bedroom
  15. Sacramento Street – Made a kids bedroom that I want to stay in.  Board and batten in the One Room Challenge
  16. Simply Grove – They redid their living room.  Look carefully and you will see rug on rug action.  It’s officially a design trend now.  Red crown Molding
  17. Jill Sorensen – Painted the crown molding in this room red.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.  Bathroom and Bedroom Makeover
  18. Sugar & Cloth – Not only did she make over her master bed AND bath, but she was preggers when she did.  Master bed reveal
  19. Vintage Rug Shop – Here’s another where you have to see the before and after transformation.  It’s simply amazing!  
  20. Waiting on Martha Created a comfy and cozy living room that’s ideal for entertaining with friends.

Next year, I hope Linda will consider me for one of the slots.  I already have an idea for which room I would do!

If you see anything you like, be sure to leave them a comment.  I’m sure they would appreciate it!

Getting Started with Home Automation

Lately all I’ve been hearing about are smart things.  You know those little gadgets that turn lights on and off, or announce the temperature at the beginning of the day.  So I decided to  jump in and write a little guide about getting started with home automation.  I’m no expert on this stuff, just somebody who is extremely interested because some of this home tech is just so cool.  I plan on updating this post as I learn more, and add items to my house.

All this stuff can  be super confusing.  It’s like learning a whole new language – smart hubs, z-wave, homekit, hub, zigbee, bluetooth, Alexa, IoT, there are dozens if not hundreds of terms to learn.  I know I’m going just a bit crazy trying to keep up on this stuff.  Hopefully I’ll be able to simplify it for you.

As of right now, I only have two items in my that makes my house a smart house.  The Nest Protect Smoke Detectors and an Echo Dot.  As for the smoke detectors, I bought them first because I liked the Nest brand, and I had plans to add their thermostat and cameras later.

But as I began to learn more I discovered that the language Nest uses to talk to each other, called Thread isn’t the most popular for home automation and control.

Z-Wave is becoming the industry leader and pretty much every other company uses it.  So if you want to add deadbolts, or lights, or other controls, you probably want to go with the most popular protocol, go with Z-Wave.

Basically Nest products only talk to Nest. Yes, there is a way to extend the functionality, but I’m all about simple, and from what I read it isn’t simple to do that yet.

I also have an Echo Dot.  You know the kind where you say “Hey Alexa – what time is it?”

Right now there are a few things I do with Alexa – mostly they are pretty simple.  Play 20 questions, ask what the weather is like and try to make sure I don’t order anything expensive on Amazon.

Most recently I connected Alexa to Pandora, so now I can play pretty much any music I want by simply saying “Alexa play Everything is Awesome”

But the Nest protect and Alexa don’t “talk” to each other.  That’s sad.  It’s because they don’t speak the same “language”  The Nest is Thread, and Alexa uses Z-wave.

Since I have plans on automating all these things I want a system that uses the same language.  For me that will be w-wave.

  • Lights in every room
  • Fans in every room
  • Thermostat
  • Doorbell
  • Blinds, curtains, and window coverings
  • Mailbox alert
  • Outside Cameras
  • Door Locks
  • Garage Door
  • Flood sensors – Air conditioner and laundry rooms
  • Sprinklers outside dependent on weather.

As for now I’m doing a lot of research, and learning exactly what is needed to do each of the above.

Is any part of your home a smart home?  What have you done?  I’d love to know in the comments below.

 

10 Toolbox Essentials for Demolition

I love starting a new project!  Why?  Because of Demolition!  By far, tearing stuff apart is the most fun, and the biggest stress reliever.  Over the years, I’ve done a ton of demo, both at my house, as well as at friends, and I have a go to bag of tools that are perfect for taking any room apart.  From simple stuff to down to the studs.

Since Christmas is right around the corner, I thought a little roundup of the best tools for demolition would be fun, so here they are, my top 10 Demo tools.   Prices range from a few dollars to over a hundred for the reciprocating saw.  Most are under $20.

  1. Sledge Hammer – These come in a bunch of different flavors.  You can get a smaller, shorter 2 pound sledge (great for the ladies), but I’m a bigger guy, and I prefer a 16 inch 6 pound hickory handled version.
  2. Pry Bar – This is different from a wrecker bar or a breaker bar.  A pry bar is about 15 inches long, and 2 inches wide.  Made out of heavy steel, it is shaped like an L.  Each end is filed down to make it easy to get under places and pry them apart.  It’s strong enough you can hit it with the sledge but also can easily be used by hand.
  3. Screwdriver  – This is for taking apart things, not using as a lever or prybar.  I usually have 2 or 3 standard and Phillips style in a few sizes.  Great for taking off door knobs, outlet covers, light fixtures, and window coverings.
  4. Outlet Tester – One thing I never want to mess around with is electricity.  Before I start any project in a room, especially demo, I always make sure to turn off the outlets and lights at the circuit breaker box.  This little outlet tester tells me when I have completely killed the circuit.  Nothing worse than grabbing a live wire to ruin your day!  All you have to do is plug it into an outlet to test.  If it lights up, in any combo, the circuit is still HOT.  My favorite model (linked above), for about $5 also works to test the outlet to make sure it is properly wired.
  5. Work Gloves – My favorite is this 3 pack of leather work gloves for less than $10.  I get enough to loan a pair to a friend, and still have one extra set in case I lose one.  Of course whenever I go to put them on, I always grab 2 lefties first.
  6. Personal Protection Equipment or PPE.  Safety Glasses, Masks, Ear Protection – These are must have items.  I also buy the glasses in 3 packs to share with friends.  They seem to get scratched up pretty quicky, and when they do I just toss them and open a fresh, new pair.  For most work, these basic filter masks do the job of keeping the dust out of my nose and mouth.  They come 50 to a box (under $10) and I make sure that I wear one as needed.  Finally, working in a confined space can get pretty noisy – especially when you start hammering on tile with a metal pry bar.  I love these little foam ear plug style.  Yes, I lose them all the time, but a box of 10 pair is just over $5, so they are always around.
  7. Sawzall – This is my go to power tool for demolition.  A cordless version, is better, because once you have killed power to the room you don’t have to search for a plug.  Plus there is no risk of cutting through the cord- yep, I’ve done that more than once.  A corded version has a bit more power, but with new battery technology, there is more than enough oompf to get the job done with a recent sawzall.  Make sure you have a few different style blades on hand as a sharp blade cuts faster, and is less dangerous than a dull blade.
  8. Knife – My favorite is this $5 stanley box cutter.  They are heavy duty, have a retractable, and replaceable blade, and when it gets dull, there are always a few spares inside the handle.  I tend to buy 4 or 5 of these at a time because they always seem to walk away.
  9. Putty Knife – Sometimes a more gentle touch is needed.  Like when you are working in a 100 year old house and you want to preserve and save the original door trim.  These are also used for spreading spackle – but my demolition one is pretty beat up, and not the best for the final stages of finish work.
  10. Shovel + trash can – After all the drywall has come down, or the backsplash is torn out, or the old linoleum floor is torn up, there is a big pile of garbage in the middle of the room.  That’s when I bring out my flat blade shovel and heavy duty trash can.  The shovel is short handled, has a flat square blade, and a t-handle at the end and makes quick work of making a big pile a small one.  The trash can I prefer is a shorter rubbermaid one – 32 galons – and I usually line it with heavy duty demolition bags.  I learned that if I get the bigger trash cans, they can be too heavy to empty into a dumpster.

I’ve included links to Amazon.com for all of these items.  Of course you can also find these at the local hardware store or big box center.  For bigger items, if needed, I rent them from my local rental house – this includes things like scaffolding, come-alongs, and power tile scrapers.

I keep these tools separate from my regular tools in a special toolbag.  That way, whenever I have a demolition project, I can simply grab this one bag and go – knowing that everything I will need is in one place.

How to Inspect Washing Machine Hoses

How to inspect washing machine hoses

As a DIYer, and handy-person,  I hear all kinds of stories about problems with houses.  One of the worst is when I hear that a washing machine hose has burst, and flooded the entire house.  I didn’t realize that washing machine hoses are under high pressure – pretty much the same pressure as the hoses outside your house that you use to water your garden.  That much!

If they burst – you home can pretty much immediately flood, and the water won’t stop until you turn it off.  That could be a real disaster!

Checking your hoses for your washer takes about 30 seconds.


How to inspect your washing machine hoses.

Look at the hoses – you should easily see the side that connects to the wall, but you may have to move the machine to see the other ends.

Inspect the hoses for bubbles, cracks, cuts, corrosion, and worn places.

Make sure there is about 6 inches between your machine and the back wall so the hoses won’t rub anywhere.

Replace immediately if you see any signs of deterioration.

Bubble on a washing machine hose
This hose is about to fail! There is a large bubble that could burst at any moment. They are likely to be at the ends, but always check the entire length of the hose.
Stainless hose washing machine failure
Even stainless washing machine hoses can fail. This hose was smashed between the washer and the wall and kept getting rubbed on until it failed.

How long do washer hoses last?

Typically Washing machine hoses last about 5 years.  I know mine are much older than that.

Which are the Washer hot and cold valves?

Look at the wall for your washer hot and cold hookups.  Typically the Hot is on the left, and is red, and cold is on the right, and is blue.  Frequently there is a 3rd connection, that is the drain line.  The hot and cold hoses screw onto the machine, and also into the bibs on the wall.  the drain is simply placed

Help! My  washing machine hose connection is leaking slowly.  If this is the case, determine where the leak is.  Completely dry off the area, and look for the leak.  Is it on the hose?  Then shut off the water and replace the hose.  If the leak is at the valve, call a plumber and get it taken care of quickly so it doesn’t become a bigger problem.  I wouldn’t use my washer until it was fixed.

The time I almost lost my wallet at Disneyland

Put a Tile in your wallet

My regular readers know that I love Lego.  I have nearly a million bricks in the Snoring Room Closet, and I even carry around a Lego Wallet everyday.  It’s a vintage style velcro wallet.  A yellow nylon with a lego print on the fabric, and it folds in thirds and then closes with a velcro strip.  It was cool in the 1980’s and now as a Dad, it is SUPER cool.  I got it as a father’s day gift from my kiddo, and I treasure it.

Obviously I keep my money and ID in it.  Some cash, a few credit cards, and some other essential items.  I take it with me everywhere I go.  One other unusual I item I keep in it is a Tile I got from a colleague about a year ago.  This isn’t a decorator tile, or ceramic tile, but a little piece of technology that kept me from loosing my wallet at the Happiest Place on Earth.

A few months ago, right before school started, we took a family trip to Disneyland for a long weekend, and to end our summer vacation.  We had a blast!  We rode all the rides (Pirates of the Caribbean is my favorite), saw all the shows – Fantasmic was awesome, and ate all the food.  It was a blast, and is something we will probably do again next year.

We happened to find ourselves in Frontierland around dinnertime, and since we were on vacation, decided to eat at the Golden Horseshoe Resort.  It’s a family friendly place with Chicken nuggets for the kid, a salad for me, and a kids meal power pack for my wife.  They all sat at a table listening to the live Dixieland music while I stood in line and ordered at the counter.

I took out my wallet, paid for the meal, and the food came literally instantly.  I picked up the tray, and took it to the table my family had saved for me.  What I didn’t take was my wallet, which I left on the counter by the register with all my money, cards, and everything else.  Totally didn’t realize it was gone.

When I did realize it was gone we had left the restaurant, and were heading up to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  The kiddo wanted something else to drink, and I reached in my pocket and had that sinking feeling in my stomach when I knew that my wallet wasn’t there.

I literally freaked out.

Right there in Frontierland.

Then I remembered that I had a Tile in the wallet.

The Tile is a little sensor (I’m not sure how to describe it).  It’s white, and about 1 inch square, and pretty thin.

What is so cool about it is if it is within 100 feet of my iPhone, I can use a special App to make the Tile make a loud sound.  If it is farther away than 100 feet then there is a little map that displays the last place the phone and tile were together.

Tile Map apptile app

I pulled out my iPhone and launched the app. Immediately it came up with a screen showing the last place the Wallet Tile was seen (I’ve since added another Tile to my Car Keys).  The map showed that my wallet wasn’t within 100 feet, but was nearby.

So using my phone, we began to walk towards the blue dot.  As we got closer and closer I realized my wallet was still inside the restaurant.

I’m sure you can feel my sense of relief when I walked into the restaurant, used the feature to ring the Tile, and faintly heard the sound coming from behind the counter near the cash registers.  One of the cast members saw it sitting there, and put it in a safe place, hoping I would come back for it, before turning it in to lost and found.  I went up to the counter and had to ask if anyone had seen my wallet.  They asked if I could describe it, and I did.  It is very distinctive, and you know.

Everything was still in there – Driver’s license, Credit cards, and even all the cash.  I offered some to the worker for keeping my wallet safe but they politely declined.

Anyway, without the Tile, I know my wallet would have been gone forever.  Our trip to Disneyland wouldn’t have been as fun, that’s for sure.  Now because of Tile, it is a great story, and something that I hope I never have to use again, but know I can if I need to.

Put a Tile in your wallet

My Garbage Disposal Smells – at least it used to

How to clean a garbage disposal

How to Clean your Garbage Disposal

Time needed: 2 minutes
Category: Kitchen
Frequency: Quarterly – or whenever your garbage disposal smells

Materials needed:

  • Baking Soda
  • Fresh Lemon
  • Ice Cubes​

The last words I want to hear right before Thanksgiving dinner is “My Garbage Disposal Stinks”  There could be lots of reasons for a smell to come from your disposal, but I have an easy and simple trick that keeps your in-sink-erator smelling clean and fresh.  This simple 3-step trick is sure to eliminate any odors coming from the bottom of your sink, and creates a fresh pleasing scent.

How to clean your garbage disposal

  1. Start by sprinkling baking soda directly into the disposal opening.  Use anywhere from 1/4 to 1 cup.

  2. Turn on the COLD water and allow it to run for about a minute.

  3. Cut a fresh lemon into quarters or wedges and toss into running disposal

  4. After the lemon is ground up, add 2-3 ice cubes, while the disposal is still running.

Do these 4 simple steps and your garbage disposal will be deodorized, and ready for use.  As always, never put your hand or anything into the disposal.  Safety First!

How to clean a garbage disposal 001205
Sprinkle baking soda in your sink to deodorize, and put in disposal. Toss a cut up lemon in to make it smell incredible!

What NOT to put in your Garbage Disposal:

I don’t like putting any chemicals into my garbage disposal.  This includes bleach or ammonia.  Even though most garbage disposal units are sealed, I never want to risk ruining any of the rubber seals or gaskets down there, as that can cause a leak, and be an expensive repair

Why does my sink smell bad?

There are lots of reasons your sink smells bad.  The most common reason is because food particles are stuck down there, not fully ground up, and they begin to decay and stink.

Choosing a white rug isn’t the end of the world

White 8x10 living room rug

It’s always a big deal around our house when we buy a new rug.  It’s even a bigger deal when we buy a white rug.   A few days ago, when we did our mini-purge in the living room, one of the things we got rid of was our old rug under the couch and ottoman.

We loved that rug.  It was grey and had a great geometric design.  But best of all, it felt great under our bare feet with its tall soft nap.  But after 5 years, 2 dogs (and a few accidents), and countless evenings with friends the old 8×10 rug had seen better days.  It was time for a new one.  But our budget wasn’t ready.  So we turned to the Home Depot to see what we could find for $300 or under.

5 white rugs under $300

  1. Evoke Ivory/Blue 8 ft. x 10 ft. Area Rug $200
  2. Elegance Linen 8 ft. x 10 ft. Area Rug $277
  3. Verginia Berber Natural/Black 7 ft. 10 in. x 10 ft. 4 in. Indoor Area Rug – $293
  4. Vennie Shaggy Natural 7 ft. 6 in. x 9 ft. 6 in. Area Rug – $260
  5. Antique Moroccan Beige 7 ft. 10 in. x 10 ft. Area Rug – $279

Ultimately we decided on #5 the Antique Moroccan due to its size and price.  Plus it was so soft and plush it didn’t need any padding to go underneath.  I just love how it brightens up the room, and make the entire place seem bigger and airier.

As for being white – I really don’t worry about that anymore.  It’s not in a high traffic area, the kiddo (or us for that matter) don’t eat in the Living room unless we have company over, and if it does get dirty, a we can quickly go over it with our Dyson cordless vac.  Plus for under $300 bucks, how can you go

Do you have a white rug?  Do you want one?  Why or why not in the comments below.

Furnishing YOUR world

Last weekend my wife and I were just hanging out on the couch – The kiddo was at a play-date, and we were browsing Instagram.  I’m not exactly sure what happened, but she asked me if I still liked this chair we got from Ikea that stands in the corner and is a home for all our extra couch pillows, throws, and blankets.

When we moved in 7 years ago, we had 1 couch, 1 bookcase, 1 TV stand, and a leather ottoman.  It was nowhere nearly enough furniture for our new living room.   We didn’t have a lot of extra money, we had just bought a house for goodness sakes, so we headed to the only place we knew to pick up a few extra pieces.

In the 7 years that passed, I think I sat in that chair exactly once.  One time is all it took.  I hated that chair.  It was funny-looking and completely uncomfortable.  But there it sat, for years in the corner, doing a good job just holding pillows off the floor.

That weekend, we decided to get rid of that chair.  Don’t worry, we didn’t toss it in a landfill, or leave it on the street to get rained on.  I put it on Craigslist and it sold quickly.  We also got rid of the bookcase, and a bunch of other furniture we didn’t love anymore.

Now, we have the same problem in our living room we had when we moved in.  It just looks empty.

But it was lunchtime.  And the kiddo was gone.  So we decided to go out to lunch together.  We headed to a nearby outdoor mall to have a bite at our favorite lunch place.  As we sat eating, there just happened to be a furniture store right next door – Arhaus.

I had heard about Arhaus before – but I wasn’t sure if my wife would like their furniture.  Of course she did – and we both love the Arhaus motto “Furnishing our world”.

We also love the fact that they are partnering with the American Forest Foundation and will plant a tree for EVERY purchase made during their storewide sale.

Arhaus Sectional CouchWhile we were in the store, we both agreed that the Pollack was pretty much the perfect sectional couch. Made in the USA, and with dozens – nay hundreds of fabric options, this square sectional fits in modern to traditional styled homes. Here are some other sectional sofas from Arhaus.

 

Arhaus MEYER 37" UPHOLSTERED CHAIR IN CHARCOALAs for their sale – they are having an upholstery sale right now where you can save up to 40%.  If you are looking for a sectional, couch, upholstered bed, or in our case a new chair like this Meyer chair, they have some great deals.

We also found a new table to go behind our couch – the Adelade console table.  We both love the double deck-edness of it, and the cool mid-century modern lines.  But while we need a new table behind our couch, we have plans to completely re-do our living room and aren’t sure this will fit in the new design.

Another thing we love about Arhaus is their dedication to responsible and sustainable production.  After some eye candy from their instagram account, check out the infographic with some handy tips about how to make YOUR home more eco friendly.

Eco friendly tips for your home

 

Real Estate Photos explained

Real Estate Zoom Lens 000812

My regular readers know that my day job is a Real Estate Agent in Austin.  Before that, I was a Biochemist in California.  But what they don’t know is that in between those two jobs, I was a wedding photographer, and I shot over 400 weddings with professional Nikon camera gear.

I know, maybe more than others, that the key to selling a house, as well as having an amazing Instagram account and house blog is to have incredible photos.

Today, I want to share a little secret that a lot of people use to make a room seem bigger.  I know there are a lot of other tricks that can be used like Photoshop, filters, and editing pictures, but this little article (with photos below) is about the camera zoom.

Zoom, or focal length is part of the lens of most cameras,

For this example I will share 5 different zooms: 12mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, & include an iPhone 6S Plus shot as well.  I’m not including a true fish-eye room shot, as I don’t have one of those lenses anymore.  Here is my exact set up.  The flash was turned off, and every photo was shot on a tripod at f8 & 1/6 se at ISO 800.

My open living and dining room is approximately 21 1/2 x 28 feet long.  I’m going to stand in one corner, and take a photo, diagonally across the room.  Every time, I’ll focus on the exact same item, and stand in exactly the same place.  I won’t change any camera settings, and I won’t do any editing or Photoshopping on the images.  I think you will be amazed by what you see.

Real Estate Lens 85mm
This shot was taken with an 85 mm lens. It feels like you are sitting on the couch watching the TV.
Real Estate Lens 50mm
Here, I used the 5omm. This is a great lens for detail shots. You can see that it includes all of the TV stand, and starts to show some of the nearby art on the wall.

 

Real Estate Lens 24 mm
For this photo, I used my favorite lens for Real Estate photography, the 24mm. To me, It shows great parts of a room, but not all the space.

 

Real Estate Lens 22 mm
Now, I’m using a zoom lens set to 22mm. It is very similar to the 24, but includes even more of the room.

 

Real Estate Lens 12mm
This is my widest angle lens – a 12 mm. You can see exactly how far away the TV is.